Speaking notes for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at a Citizenship Ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada marking the 70th anniversary of Canada's first citizenship ceremony
January 3, 2017
Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen and especially our 26 new Canadians, good afternoon. It’s a real pleasure for me to be here with you today. Let me begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and as you know indigenous people have played a fundamental role in our country’s history, in the present and in the future.
I would say that one of the most important and certainly pleasurable things that I do as Immigration Minister is to participate in citizenship swearing-in ceremonies. Today is a very special one. All of you 26 are very special and the focus is and should be on you, but in addition to that it is special because we are here in the Supreme Court of Canada, a place where exactly 70 years ago today we had our first citizenship swearing-in ceremony presided over by Mackenzie King, the then Prime Minister.
He welcomed new citizens but he didn’t say in that speech he himself was a new citizen. He was Canadian citizen number 001 because that was the first day any Canadian at any time had been sworn in as a citizen of Canada. It’s also a very special day because today it’s the first swearing-in ceremony in Canada in the year 2017 which is Canada’s 150th birthday, so a very special welcome to you on this very special day.
Being in the Supreme Court it comes naturally to me to say that we are a country governed by the rule of law. The Supreme Court has done terrific work implementing and fashioning our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But we are also a country that values our freedom. As one of our most famous Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier once said,
Canada is free and freedom is our nationality.
We are a country governed by the rule of law, a country of freedom and a country that values diversity. As I look in this room I see diversity and I say to you all and I say to all Canadians that we welcome all, whatever the colour of your skin, whatever your religion. We welcome all to Canada and you will make a terrific contribution to the diversity of our country.
Lastly, Canada is a bilingual country, and so I am very pleased to offer you a warm and direct welcome as new citizens of our country, Canada. I will just say one more thing in terms of your rights and responsibilities as citizens. There are some of my francophone friends from Quebec, possibly my colleague here, whose families have been Canadians for 300 years or more.
In my case I would say my family has been Canadian for perhaps 150 years. In your case half an hour from now you will have been Canadian for 20 minutes. But what I say to you is that whether you’ve been Canadian for 300 years, for 100 years, for 20 minutes, it doesn’t matter because we are all equal in terms of our rights and responsibilities as Canadians.
Whether your family has been Canadian for 300 years or for 20 minutes, we are all Canadians. We are all equal in terms of our rights and responsibilities. To all of you a very warm and open welcome to the Canadian family and I hope you have a wonderful day. Thank you.
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